Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Above a servant, a brother beloved (Exod 21:2ff, slavery)

Ugh, I got well into this post a few weeks ago and lost it in a computer crash, then got busy with other things. Perhaps it's doubly upsetting because I largely feel I've already addressed this topic in previous posts (here and here specifically, if you want to read back), but decided to make a single post focusing on the matter in specific. As I said in my last post an age ago, most of my posts for a while will be much more topical in nature than what I've done before.

There's a lot to say about slavery in the Bible, but one of the important things to note right off the top is the difference between slavery as we tend to think of the term in 20th-century America and the way the Bible describes it in ancient Israel. Modern slavery which was practiced in America for several centuries generally was the kidnapping of people from Africa, shipping them across the Atlantic in conditions not suitable for cattle much less humans, selling them into permanent unpaid servitude in which many were treated as far less than human, and their inability to be freed extended to their children, who would be born into slavery and live their whole lives as nothing more than property. For those with strong stomachs, a frankly graphic portrayal of many of the evils of modern slavery can be seen in the movie .

But as I obviously was getting to, Hebrew slavery was quite different, as one can see when one reads about it. That doesn't mean that it was all fun and games, obviously, but permit me the liberty of contrasting it to the negatives of modern slavery to show it in a positive light before I admit there are some things I would consider as unsavory as anyone else.

Point one: Slavery was largely a voluntary institution in Israel. In contrast to how we think of people being torn away from their home and family to be sold into slavery against their will so that the slave-trader can make some quick and easy cash, Hebrew slaves were selling themselves into slavery for their own well-being. Assumably, a person who was poor and had no means to make ends meet, rather than starving to death would approach one of their wealthy neighbors and ask to be taken on. Probably most people would consider this a good deal if the alternative were starving to death or becoming a beggar. Pay the man's debts and agree to house, clothe and feed him, and he's yours to keep!

Point two: Slavery was not a permanent status in Israel. Yes, you get to keep the guy, but only for six years. For all those people in the early days of America that used the Bible to justify slavery, imagine if they had actually practiced Biblical slavery! You can buy slaves, but you have to make them into free men after six years? That would have changed the slave trade, not to mention my previous point and the next much more interesting one. Which leads me to...

Point three: Not only are slaves not in a permanent state of slavery, but when they are released at the end of their term of service, you are required to pay them! I believe the idea here is that even with all the ways I'm trying to make out ancient Hebrew slavery to be a wonderful, cheery thing, it was not considered a desirable state to be in for the long run, so once someone had served you as a slave, you were required to set him up in such a manner that he really had the chance to go back to being a productive member of society on his own. Once again, try to imagine that in early 19th century America! "Well, you've served me well, these last six years on my cotton plantation here, so I guess your time is up. Here's your share of the proceeds from the last six years of cotton sales, and take a horse, too, since you'll need something to carry all the stuff you'll be packing out of here..." Difficult, but somehow funny to imagine.

So, the positive points aside, I suppose I should get to the negative, but there are also some points that are ambiguous, and probably depend on you personal point of view. For instance, while I said that slavery was largely voluntary, one of the exceptions is notable. If a person is caught stealing, and they can't repay what they stole, they are forced to go into slavery to pay off the debt. It may seem cruel, but in modern times, we throw them in jail. Either way, you're faced with a few years of lost freedom, so I think it's a personal judgment call. Still, I think it beats cutting the guy's hands off, but maybe that's just me.

A lot of the fairly ambiguous problems with Hebrew slavery (although much more abhorrent to our modern sensibilities) have to do with the treatment of women through this institution. Yes, as Bible detractors point out, in those days people would sell their daughters. The reason that I call this "ambiguous" is that things look very different when you compare this practice to the practices of those times and modern times. While we don't like it, women had very little rights in those days, and rather than choosing the man they wanted to marry, their fathers would sell them off to another family. The verses here are making it clear that just because a woman you have bought (and this may not actually be an issue of slavery, but betrothal, but honestly the dividing line is a thin one) belongs to you, you don't get the right to treat her like trash. She is not to go out and perform manual labor. She is not to be sold to a foreigner. You can't marry another woman unless you have the means to continue to support your first wife at the same level you already have been. (I'm not going to get into polygamy here.) By modern Western standards, being sold into marriage/slavery seems like a bad thing, but in the culture of that time (and even the modern culture of many countries today) that's being very generous.

(A friend of mine with whom I was discussing this subject recently pointed out that while many of us would certainly hope that God would create a moral code that was considerably less barbaric than the one ancient Israel got, it may simply have been prudent to work in "baby steps". Culture is resistant to change, and God, rather than flinging them forcefully into a 21st-century sensibility, gave them a strong nudge in the right direction. "Okay, while your slaves and wives are your property, that doesn't mean you're justified in treating them like livestock.")

Somebody pointed out to me in the comments that I forgot to mention the particular status of a slave becoming a "bondsman". At the end of the six-year period of servitude, the slave has the option of signing on for permament service. A man who decided to stay on permanently would get his ear pierced in an odd little ceremony before witnesses. Since this is voluntary, I don't think there is a real problem here. People of a more libertarian bent seem to have no problem with the idea that a person has the right to commit suicide or abuse their body in whatever way they choose to, so why not have the right to be a slave if you really want it? I would assume that this is often in the case of a person who found that being a slave ended up being a better lifestyle for them than being free and having to take care of themselves, as odd as that may sound.

On the positive side of this, even this "permanent" status is not really permanent, I believe. I would assume that a slave in this position still had the chance to purchase their freedom (Did I mention that since most slaves ended up being slaves because of debt, the early payment of the debt entitled them to freedom? I think I missed that as well.) and also, they would still have the right of release that is outlined below in the second-to-last paragraph. Furthermore, as we see in Leviticus 25:10, all slaves are to be set free every 50 years. (I'm putting that in bold because I think it's the most blatantly clear part of the Bible showing that slavery is never a completely permament status, and I don't want it to be missed.) Granted, the lifespan may not be so very long as to be beneficial for every slave to be set free in 50 years, but a big part of the point of the 50-year jubilee cycle is to restore things to families. Although as a permanent slave one may not be very young by the time the jubilee year comes around, your freedom and all of your family's real estate come back to your children at that time.

On the negative side, there are some further complications to this that have to do with the status of women and the way marriage worked in those days. (In addition to people not often understanding ancient Israelite slavery, I think modern "traditional marriage" supporters would not really want to have marriage be the institution that the Bible presents us with.) Basically, if you get married while you are a slave, your marriage is by permission of your master, and since you have no money, the bride-price was certianly paid by him. At the time you are to be set free, your master has the option of keeping the wife he bought for you, because she's his property, not yours. Obviously, this could really suck, and as the Bible points out, the only thing you can do about it if your master does this is elect to stay on as his servant. On the other hand, this fact wold be well known, and I would think that a person would avoid getting married while in servitude because of it. Not nice, but there it is.

One of the much more unsavory parts of slavery is the fact that the Bible does allow a slave owner to beat his slave. However, that comes with a caveat: if you beat the slave to death, you're guilty of murder, and if you beat them so severely that you disfigure them, you are forced to release them early.

Although there are probably many minor points I have not fully touched on, I'm going to leave the topic with just one more observation. The voluntary and temporary status of slaves does not apply to slaves acquired from foreign countries. At least not in the same manner, it would seem. The rules don't seem to be as well fleshed out in such a case. I suspect that the rules for release of a slave through mistreatment or on jubilee years still apply, and while slaves acquired during wartime are almost certainly not in voluntary service, those acquired from gentile neighbors may or may not be. Biblical detractors may be free to think the worst; even the best of this aspect clearly doesn't seem very pleasant.


Anonymous said...

Actually, if he has a wife and some kids, the master gets to keep the wife and the kids. IF he refuses to let the master take his family, the master can "bore [the slave's] ear through with an aul".

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brucker said...

Dangit, I knew I was forgetting something important! There are minor details I can gloss over, but I think that's not one of them. I'll go back and change the post rather than add it in the comments. (Oh, and I'm going to erase your accidental double-posting.)

Brucker said...

Oh, and Steve, I think the picture you have in Exodus 21:6 should also be linked to in Deuteronomy 15:17; after all, that's the verse quoted from in the caption.

form121 said...

Four quick notes (according to Jewish tradition): (1) Jewish slaves could not be beaten; that law applies only to foreign slaves who were indeed to be freed at that time (but not in the jubilee year - they had no family to which to return!). (2) One can only sell his daughter until she reaches the age of twelve, and the sale was viewed largely as a means of inspiring the owner (or his son) to marry the girl. Indeed, it was considered a breach of faith if they did not present a marriage proposal - which the girl had the right to reject. While enslaved, the owner did not have the right to force her to perform labor except for those household chores normally performed by girls. (3) Jewish slaves could not be forced to perform hard labor and had to be treated as well (or better) as the owner's own family. Indeed, the Talmud says that one who acquires a slave acquires a master for himself. Even a foreign slave must be treated humanely, and may not be abused. (4) The "wife and children" referred to in the Bible does not refer to a validly contracted marriage; rather, it means that the master is allowed to provide his slave with a (gentile) maid as a concubine - the Hebrew word ishah can mean wife or "woman", as it does in this case. The concubine is, of course, still the property of her master.

Anonymous said...

Try as one might, rationalizing barbaric
stupidity and gross inhumane behavior simply because it's "in the bible" only demeans one's self. What fun it must have been to be a slave. I think there were similar toughts about slavery in America by the slave owners, i.e. "my slaves live better here than where they came from" etc. God and the bible both condone slavery no if ands or buts. Your reasoning is both infantile and biased.

Brucker said...

Thanks for the clarification, form121. Do you have a reference for that information? If true, it seems to verify and strengthen my positions on these matters.

Brucker said...

anonymous, did you actually read what I said, or even better, what form121 said? I may be biased in this matter (of course everyone is biased), but your bias is showing as well. You hear the word "slavery" and various pictures form in your mind as to what that entails, but your picture may be quite wrong in this case. Believe me or not, but the institution of slavery in ancient Israel was intended for the benefit of the slave rather than the benefit of the master.

Anonymous said...

It feels so good and so right, how can it be wrong? God the daddy has made us as little daddies in His image...

Some of us, that is....

And for the others' own good too......

Yummy, sheep!

And now that we have at last found the courage to open the bible and read honestly, we can speak without shame of the deep happiness that fills the slave!

For what slave's heart on God's earth is not filled with gratitude for the master's many 'kindnesses'.

"Then the Lord grew fearful that some day His children would come unto Him in the garden as He slept and murder him with chain saws and country music and airport food.

And so, on the eighth day, God went out from his hiding place amongst the wet stacks of used flesh behind the Wallmart, and created the Stokholme Syndrome."

And we all know the rest from sunday school.

Anonymous said...

Ok you really need to get a grip. Delusional belief in god is on thing, but the contorted logic you use to justify slavery is absurd. You pick and choose passages that portray slavery in a merely horrible, rather than outright dispicable light, and yet ignore Exodus 21:20

"If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

While it is true that American slave owners could also kill their slaves, modern slave owners are not allowed to kill their slaves (oh yes, slavery does still exist -- it just isnt legal -- but it is still beyond dispicable).

When you start with the "truth", you can explain and justify anything, but your path becomes contorted to the point of absurdity, but you will never see that unless you actually try to be intellectually honest about it.

Brucker said...

Hey, I certainly don't think it's a perfect institution, I only want to clear the air and separate truth from differnt levels of speculation.

Besides, I didn't "ignore Exodus 21:20", I actually linked directly to it and commented on it. I'd love to have more dialogue on this and other subjects I've covered in the blog, but I keep getting the impression that people coming here and complaining aren't reading what I actually said before ripping into me.

Anonymous said...

There isnt much else to comment on. Either your god expects and condones slavery -- a dispicable institution on ANY level -- or he doesnt. If he does, that is immoral, if he doesnt, then the bible is wrong.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, you did mention Exodus 21:20, I didnt get down that far. My apologies, but the point still stands that even at that "benign" level it is morally repugnant

Brucker said...

Some people think homosexuality is "morally repugnant", while others think homophobia is. Some people think capital punishment is "morally repugnant" while others believe it is unconscionable to allow convicted murderers to live. Both capitalism and communism are "morally repugnant" to some section of society. How can you say what's right and wrong? Seriously; what's your absolute standard for determining the morality of one thing over another?

Anonymous said...

You are kidding right? Holding the other things aside, as they are utterly irrelevant to whether or not slavery is morally repugnant.

My absolute standard is simple, if your actions are having a exclusively and persistently negative impact on another human being, it is morally wrong. I believe that even your savior suggests that we should do unto others as they would do unto us.

And, by the way, the only reason anyone finds homosexuality morally repugnant is because of your open minded little book there. There have been numerous civilizations (most notably the Greeks) who have never had any problem with homosexuality.

Opposing capital punishment is a moral issue. Supporting it is an effectiveness/justice/revenge issue which complicates the question dramatically in the context of absolute morals.

There can be no question that slavery is inhumane. (Lets use that word, as it is more easily defined on an absolute level). People did (yes even in the bible) and still do things to human slaves that our society would not condone doing to rodents. I think I can unequivically state that in the context of our society, slavery is viewed as morally wrong.

Which by definition means that the god you think you believe in is morally bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

So holding aside all the other moral issues, lets see you defend slavery as being even remotely acceptable behavior, much less condoning it.

This should take you to new levels of denial

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I think that the blogger is trying to put the slavery in the bible into the context of it's day. I think he has made a very good case for the difference between modern manifestations of slavery. Particularly given that biblical slavery was often a voluntary way to work oneself out of debt. What would you suggest as an alternative to the culture of Israel a this time? Capital punishment? Prison clearly wasn't an option as it is in modern society.

You have every right to your oppinion but I really think you should try to have a balance view of the argument presented in the original blog. It is a clarification of what slavery meant according to the Bible. He seems to be saying that while an imperfect and (in many ways unsavoury) solution it was the lesser of possible evils at the time.

It is easy to criticise the Bible when you refuse to acknowledge the context in which it was written and primarily related too. As a Bible believeing Christian I cannot seperate teachings in the Bible from their original context - as such Christians do not directly apply every teaching in the Bible to their own lives.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what he was trying to do. And I am saying that it is sophistry. It is irrelevant to say it was not the same abomination then as it is now. On an absolute scale, it is an abomination any way you look at it, and trying to apologize is denial, plan and simple

and by the way... your perfect god somehow needed to rely upon lesser evil (that even then is appalling). What is that all about? Makes him seem kind of impotent, especially since he was walking around on earth a lot back then.

And, finally, I actually do have a very balanced view of the blog. It is completely rational and sane. The problem with your thoughts on balance is that giving any arguement equal weight to any other does not make an analysis balanced, it makes it arbitrary. I see no need to give any credit whatsoever to any claims that are irrational or logically flawed.

My conclusion stands, the god of the bible condoned an abomination and can therefore not be perfect (actually he doesnt exist, but if he did, he can not have the characteristics Christians think he has) QED

So, take awy the apologist, denial viewpoint and tell me how your perfect god could every have condoned indentured servitude, much less tolerated slavery, of the people he supposedly loved. Or you can admit the bible is not the word of god, but rather the word of men who wanted to continue to have slaves.

Mind you this is just one characteric of many distateful traits your god seems to embody in the old testament. But the arguement is more or less the same.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the double post.

One other comment for John:

you said "It is easy to criticise the Bible when you refuse to acknowledge the context in which it was written and primarily related too. As a Bible believeing Christian I cannot seperate teachings in the Bible from their original context - as such Christians do not directly apply every teaching in the Bible to their own lives."

So how do you decide which teachings to follow and which not to follow? Based on what feels right I imagine. How is that in any way different from making up your own mind on how to behave?

And regarding context, the bible is supposed to be the absolutetruth. How does absolute truth ever need context? How can I not judge your god based on current standards if he is supposed to be immutable?

I still judge Thomas Jeffereson to be flawed because he held slaves (although a great man in many ways). The difference is that he was a man, not a perfect all loving god. Do you also hold your god to be flawed in many ways, although great in others? In what ways is he great, demonstrable. At least the constitution has held the test of time and does not require "context" to be a great document. Your god cant even write a timeless book. Even Homer managed to do that around the same time.

Brucker said...


Of course those other issues are other issues, I only use them for purposes of illustration.

While I like your standard, I think there are other issues to consider in determining whether something is morally wrong or right. I was recently reading rather complicated analysis on the problem of suffering/evil. This a theological topic that has had hundreds of books and essays written on it, and I won't delve into here other than to state without proof that suffering exists, and hope we can all agree on that one simple fact. Anyway, in the analysis, the author was pointing out that we sometimes oversimplify things and assume that things are either right or wrong, when of course there are shades in between. Lying is wrong. Killing is wrong. If a person lies to protect the life of another, while they are doing something that on its own would be considered wrong, it is morally right to do it, because they are causing a state that is *very* morally wrong to be avoided by doing a *slightly* morally wrong action. Sometimes morally right things are not a matter of taking something bad and making it good, but simply making it less bad.

Applying the principle to Biblical slavery, the thing that I think you are missing is that this is a state that a person enters into willingly at a time when they are at need. Today, the government supplies us with an unenmployment check, and helps us find a new job. In those days, with a highly agricultural society, a likely scenario is that a man who owned land (as supposedly all men who were not Levites did) found themselves in poverty, and unable to provide for themselves and their family. Thus they go to a more well-to-do neighbor and offer them usage of their land and their services over the next six years in return for food and clothing their family. I won't deny that it sucks, but isn't it better than starving to death?

So ancient Hebrew slavery is a welfare system, don't you see? No, I don't like it that owners are allowed to beat their slaves, and I don't like it that women in general are treated as property, and I won't try to defend those as acceptable, but I am saying that in the time and place of this society, it was a system that worked best for them.

Brucker said...


You point out one of the things that is very difficult about evaluating the Mosaic Law as a modern Christian: context. You've got a law that was written over 3,000 years ago in another place, in another time, for another society, and you have to ask yourself, "Does this really apply to me today?" Often the answer is no, but not always. Sometimes while the answer is no, that does not preclude the fact that this Law was meant to have meaning for all time nonetheless.

Ever since Marx, a fair portion of the population has referred to capitalism as "wage slavery", and I don't think that's so far off the mark (although my politics are admittedly a bit to the left of the average evangelical). 18th century American slaves were enslaved by cruel masters. Ancient Israelite slaves were enslaved by hopefully benevolent neighbors. Today, we're enslaved by the almighty dollar, and it's a master that can be as kind or as cruel as any. The dollar is not a person, but it has the power to make one of its slaves kill another, or inflict cruelty on another, or use another in an improper sexual manner.

There's a phrase I've heard tossed around in the past by Christians: "Everyone is a slave to someone or something, it's just a matter of who or what."

Anonymous said...

Two very well thought out and impressive responses, nonetheless, you are in a state of denial about the ultimate goodness of the god in the bible and what was necessary at the time.

While it is true, slavery is perhaps better than starving (although I am not sure that is necessarily true, and besides this was a wilderness, food had to be somewhere... anyway), and maybe slavery made their lives slightly better. There are two deal breakers for that arguement: 1) American Indians managed to have a pre-bronze age society without slavery even close to the level in the bible, ergo, the system was still way sub-optimal yet god accepted even encouraged it. 2) While it is stated many times how landowners went into servitude voluntarily, there is nothing in the bible that suggests most or even many "neighbors" were particularly benevolent. I stand by the arguement that it was a terrible system that the writers of the bible put in the best light possible in order to perpetuate it. This does not speak well of your god.

On the second post, very colorful metaphors, but the issue is that no one claims that the dollar should in anyway be humane. It is a concept that has no emotions or feelings. It is like saying we are enslaved to life. True enough, but irrelevant, unless you want to state that you god is an unfeeling, abstract concept, in which case I will accept the analogy.

Brucker said...


"On an absolute scale, it is an abomination any way you look at it, and trying to apologize is denial, plan and simple"

I'm not trying to apologize, unless you mean apologize in the sense of "explain". I don't see how it's an abomination any way you look at it at all. As I suggested in my last comment, in a way we are all slaves. You're forced to work for the government, since you have to pay taxes. If you don't give Uncle Sam a portion of what you earned, you'll end up in prison. If you behave in a way that the government doesn't like, they'll throw you in prison for that, too. Is that more humane than having a choice as to what you do with your money and your person? Some people don't think so.

"...your perfect god somehow needed to rely upon lesser evil..."

Ah, it sounds like you do understand, at least in part. But now you're getting into theodicy, which is deeper than I care to go in this blog, partially because there seems to be no theodicy that pleases everyone. For such discussions, I suggest you check out my other blog.

Anonymous said...

One other thought on your response.

You state that libraries of books have been written on the concept of suffering and how that fits in with a benevolent god.

There is a very good reason that theologians have written so much and come to so few conclusions: They sater with the premise that god is all good and all powerful and then they try to fit reality into this "truth" The problem is that it doesnt fit. In fact there are multitudes of intrinsic contradictions causing people to conclude "we can not ever know the nature/rationale of god".

There is a much easier explanation and a rock solid conclusion. There is no all good, all powerful god. Suffering needs no purpose, nor does anything else in the universe. With these basic starting points, there is no need for convoluted logic, things become very clear and very simple (if not quite as appealing as a promised eternity in paradise).

I do actually believe that those volumes of books can be summed up in this simple concept, unfortunately, denial does not allow theologians to abandon their initial premise.

Brucker said...

To comment on your last reply and clarify why I am suggesting that you are asking questions beyond the scope of this blog, if you were to go back to the three first "intro" posts of this blog, I discuss that there are blanket answers that some Christians will apply to any issue in the Bible, that being that the Bible is God's Word and we have no right to question it in the slightest. In my mind, that's an oversimplification and a cop-out.

However, on the converse side, there are ways for an atheist to steer the conversation that, while philosophically worthwhile lines of questioning in general, are in effect derailing the train of thought in this specific context. The idea for this blog is not to examine the nature of God, but rather, given certain Judeo-Christian assumptions as to the nature of God, examine whether the Bible makes sense.

That being said, you do bring up points that are indeed apropos to the subject:

1) American Indians indeed had societies that managed to live in harmony with each other and with nature without resorting to slavery. I don't doubt that it is possible to avoid that sort of evil in theory and even in practice if the conditions are right. However, in the bigger context of the Bible story as a whole, God is working to build Israel into an important world power. In so doing, He may be stuck with having to deal with them in ways that He would not if He were intending them to be eternal nomads in the middle of nowhere. Admittedly this is speculation, but it seems probable to me.

2) You're right that there is no guarantee that any given slave owner would be benevolent, but as in modern-day capitalism, there's a better chance of growing your business if you run it in a way that the community approves of. If a person acquired a slave and treated them cruelly, how many people do you think would willingly go into service for that man thereafter?

I say again, it was not "good", but I see many reasons why it could have worked far better than you assume.

As for God being an abstract concept...well, isn't He? ; )

Anonymous said...

I am not sure where you are going with your arguements... If god is an abstract (uninvolved, non-loving being) then the bible is irrelevant, because it certainly does not portray him that way.

You talk about god trying to build israel into a world power, and you hit my point exactly. Everything I have been trying to say is that the god in the bible does not reflect mainstream Chrsitan views of his character.

1) If he greated all men, we is he showing favortism to one family? Why does he refer to other civilization's gods for that matter?

2) If he is omnipotent, why does he have to "try" to do anything? Shouldn't he necessarily succeed in whatever way he wants?

3) If he is all loving, why does he feel a need to kill SOOOO many things, including unequivocal innocents (babies, animals, etc...)

4) If we have free will, how is it that he hardened Pharoh's heart in order to keep destoying Egypt?

5) If he is all knowing, how did he not forsee all of these bad things happening to the Jews?

6) If he is perfect, how is it that he made a mistake and had to wipe out the world, and then apologize afterwards?

This is just in Genesis and Exodus. Onece we get into Leveticus, we can start all over with contradictions about his nature as represented in the bible and the nature Christians believe him to have.

I am sure you have covered a lot of this in your blog, which I admit to not having read, except for this entry, but if this is the topic of your blog, I can't figure out how you can even argue it any any logical way. Actually, it doesnt seem that you have.

Brucker said...

Oh, God is abstract, but I never said he was an "uninvolved, non-loving being". All I am saying is that the full nature of God is certainly not known to anyone on earth. As for your questions, I will answer some, refer you to other posts for some, and perhaps leave a few unanswered.

Favoritism - Oddly enough, I don't think I addressed this issue yet, although I should have, probably. God gives many reasons in the Bible as to why He chooses Israel, but it pretty much boils down to Him wanting to have a nation on earth that He can shape into His representative.

Other gods - See here.

Trying - I'm not sure what you're referring to, but if at any time I or the Bible said that God "tried" to do something, one probably assume He was successful eventually, and this question is more a matter of linguistic hair-splitting.

Loving vs. killing - Pretty sure I addressed this somewhere but in a nutshell, I don't think people would think it "unloving" of me to kill someone who was attempting to seriously harm my children. The two are not neccessarily completely incompatible.

Innocents - It's a common Christian theological assumption that nobody is innocent.

Pharaoh's heart and free will - Whether we have free will is debatable, actually; some Christians don't particularly believe in it. But I addressed that particular here.

Omniscience - God did forsee all things, I don't follow you?

Mistake? - This post may answer the question, but if not, let me know, as I'm sure I've covered it somewhere.

Leviticus - I'm not looking forward to Leviticus, but mostly because it's one of the most boring books.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that you take all of my issues and happen to find specific answers in the bible where they happen to be consistent. What about all of the times that they are inconsistent. To disprove someones nature is a particular way, all you need to do is need the instances when he doesnt act that way - QED. Highlighting a handful of instances when he acted in ways that support the nature you believe does nothing to compensate logically for the failures. That is all you have done.

The whole point of not being able to know the nature of god is precisely because it is illogical, not because it is unknowable

Brucker said...

Well, if there are times that there are (perceived) inconsistencies in the Bible, then you point them out, but I can only respond to them one by one. I don't have the ability to address 1000+ chapters of the 66 books simultaneuosly.

If you know of a problem with the Bible that Steve Wells hasn't covered, then let him know, and he'll probably include it in the SAB. If it's already there, then I'll eventually get to it. If you're impatient because the issue is somewhere I won't get to untilmonths if not years from now, then go ahead and ask. Did I fail to answer the issues you raised before? If not, then tell me and allow me to either clarify or admit ignorance.

(I'm no professional Bible scholar; there have been a few issues so far that I haven't been able to come up with an answer that fully satisfies myself!)

Anonymous said...

Actually, yes, your answers have been less than satisfactory for most everything raised so far. You are trying to explain how a clearly imperfect creation was somehow created by a perfect being, and frankly it just doesnt fly.

If you could actually start with observations of reality and then deduce the existence of the god based on those facts, that would be a start. But that would be beyond illogical. So there is no reason to try.

I suppose I am done with this forum as I see no explanations that do not use convoluted logic and tautologies to explain things that are actually quite simple once your highly suspect starting assumption is removed.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you embrace reality at some pointin your life.


Brucker said...

Ah, I think you're in the wrong place. While I enjoy conversations like that, that's not really the purpose of this blog (see here). You can check out my other blog for more wide-ranging topics or go somewhere else entirely, of course; there are a lot of good places for theological debate on the internet, including the SAB itself and its discussion board. Check it out and maybe I'll see you there the next time I drop by!

Brucker said...

Anonymous, I have written a post in my other blog just for you on this very subject:

Moralists Anonymous

Anonymous said...

To hear a person in this day and age try to justify biblical slavery is truly disgusting.

Brucker said...

Anonymous! You came back! Gee, I've missed your insightful comments.

So, do you have anything specific to say about the topic, or did you just drop by to thank me for the entertainment value?

Connor R said...

Seems you get a lot of angry traffic haha. My friend Mariano has talked about "beating slaves" on his blog Atheist is dead ( and I have too (

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